Interview: Catherine E. Coulson Talks Twin Peaks Return & Eraserhead

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I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Catherine E. Coulson, who portrays Margaret Lanterman, better known as the Log Lady, on Twin Peaks. In the interview Coulson discusses Twin Peaks, meeting David Lynch, her experiences in film and theater, growing up with her father working for Walt Disney, meeting David Lynch, and her memories of Eraserhead.

Coulson compared working in film/television and theater, “It’s different, I like them both. What I love about live theater is live audiences, and I love that you don’t get a take two. You just go out there and give it your all, there’s a certain kind of wonderful freshness about that. We’re going to be doing 8 shows a week of Into the Woods in Beverly Hills, and you have to put it out there every moment, every night. Film is a really wonderful medium because you can do it over if you don’t love something, it’s a very intimate medium.”

While Coulson has theater work coming up, she has agreed to return to Twin Peaks for its 2016 revival on Showtime, but Coulson claims that David Lynch did not give many details on the show’s comeback when he contacted her, “When I talked to David, he said, ‘It’s too early for details.’ Then I said, ‘What do I tell people?’ He said, ‘Details to follow, and don’t play in the street.’ Those were the two things. Then I wrote him and said, ‘Listen, I’m doing a lot of interviews, is there anything else I can talk about?’ He said I could talk about how important wood is to the Log Lady, and that we should work very hard to protect our wood, and our natural resources. So I’ve been doing a lot of reading about trees, and ancient forests, and so forth, but I don’t know anything about the new series. I don’t know where it’s going to be shot, I don’t know when, I don’t know anything, other than that they asked me to do it, and I said yes. But really, that’s all I know, I’m not being coy, I really don’t know.”

Coulson also discussed how the show will be returning to a new world when it comes to advancements in technology, and cell phones, which didn’t exist when Twin Peaks originally aired in 1990-1991, “It is going to be a different world, there weren’t even cell phones when we did Twin Peaks. Agent Cooper had a giant walkie talkie. I think it’s going to be a different world, but everybody’s going to adjust to it. We’re going to have to.”

While the Log Lady hasn’t been seen on Twin Peaks in over 20 years, a new generation of fans have connected to the character. Coulson said, “It’s been an amazing ride, because now hipsters in college are really into Twin Peaks. I mean I get stopped everywhere I go all the time for the Log Lady. I was in Budapest last year, and a whole bunch of 20 year olds came up to me and said, ‘Margaret?’ And I said, ‘Well, kind of.’ I have these little cards where I sign the autograph of the log, because that’s what I think people are really interested in, is the wood. So I gave them all little log cards, and they were very happy with that.”

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Coulson remembered meeting David Lynch, and her memories of working on the set of Eraserhead, “I was married to Jack Nance, and he and I were both asked to come over to David’s house, where he lived with his first wife Peggy, who is a wonderful woman and still a good friend, and also a good friend of David’s. They had a little girl named Jenny, who is now Jennifer Lynch, and we went to their house and just chatted. I think the interview was really for Jack, to see if he would be a good Henry in Eraserhead, but David also talked to me about playing the nurse in Eraserhead. We were both actors in this acting company, we were part of the American Film Institute work shop, which we were doing for directors to learn how to act, and to have the experience of acting, so we taught a few classes. David was a really nice guy, very sweet, he had a midwestern kind of dialect. He was just a straight shooting guy, he had on a couple of ties, and I think a kind of torn Panama hat.

Anway, he and Jack really hit it off, and we had a good chat. We didn’t talk much about the movie, and Jack and I decided yeah, we’ll be a part of it, because he seemed like such a good guy, and he had a nice family. The next time we met on the set of Eraserhead, which he had been building with his brother and this guy Jack Fisk, who has become a wonderful director, he was an art director at the time. He asked me to help him time some scenes, as we were trying to figure out how long the movie would be. At the time I think it was a minute a page, and he had like 20 pages (laughs), but in fact, it became a gigantic, wonderful, feature film. So I timed some scenes with a stop watch, and then when we tarted shooting, and Jack Nance was cast as Henry, the lead, I said I could help out on the crew, because I wasn’t going to be acting as the nurse until later on in the shoot.

So I started helping out by holding the boom, helping with the lighting, and I did Jack’s hair as Henry, then I took production stills, and sort of did everything. It was really my film school, and David really taught me a lot about making movies. It was a whole other world for me, I had only been doing theater, for the most part, so I really fell in love with filmmaking because of that experience. Then we never actually shot the scene with the nurse, because by the time we got to that 4 years later, we really didn’t have a lot of money, and I didn’t think it was that important to shoot it, and I was helping raise some money, so we didn’t do it. But that’s my one regret, that I didn’t play that part.”

She later added regarding the long process of making the film, “There was never a sense of let’s get this over with, or let’s give up, or any of that. For me, it was always something I was going to see through until the end, no question about it. I remember once I had jury duty, and it just killed me, because I had to miss a couple of shots of the movie, and I hadn’t missed anything. I had to stay downtown in LA, and get rejected for every jury that I tried to get on (laughs). It was a wonderful time in our young life, we were in our 20’s. We started off as really young people, we ended up a little older (laughs). But we had a really good time together, it was a real team effort. It was David’s vision, and we all helped make it happen.”

Catherine will be in Guys and Dolls and Much Ado About Nothing next season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival starting in late February 2015. The Festival is a Tony Award winning theater-the oldest and largest rotating repertory theater in the country. The website for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is www.osfashland.org. The show Catherine did this year, Into The Woods is opening in Beverly Hills, CA on Dec. 2, 2014 and runs in a limited run until Dec. 21. It is playing at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts also known as www.thewallis.org. She will be playing Milky White (the cow), The Stepmother, The Granny and The Giant.

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